Akinwumi Adesina: A Revolutionary as AfDB President

200 views | Akanimo Sampson | December 23, 2020

He is one of the 60 eminent Nigerians who were born in the year of Nigeria’s independence. A compendium on his peers by Project60@60 features him prominently. He is Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President of African Development Bank (AfDB). Most Nigerians do not know him as a green revolutionary. Easily, he can be identified with his trade mark ‘’bow tie’’, a tie in the form of a bow. Bow ties are usually worn by men, especially for formal occasions.

From 2010 to 2015, he dominated the affairs of Nigeria’s complex agricultural sector when former President Goodluck Jonathan, appointed him Agriculture Minister. Adesina became a green revolutionary following his involvement with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Millinder Gates Foundation. He was AGRA’s Vice President for Policy and Partnership. He worked alongside the late Mr. Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006, who was the Chairman, and Dr. Namanga Ngongi as the president.

While AGRA’s vice president, Adesina played a vital role in creating a market enabling environment for farmers and was also instrumental in making financial institutions to invest in agriculture by providing loan facilities to farmers to boost their crop production. Adesina was born on January 6, 1960. He is from Oyo State in the predominantly Yoruba Western Nigeria. He is a meticulous researcher, a refreshing innovator, and an erudite economist. He considers agriculture as an economic value; to this effect, he engineers and implements agricultural policies to help in achieving a sustainable society and eradicating poverty in Africa and the world.

The AfDB President had his education in Nigeria and the United States of America. His primary education was done in his community where he sat for the First School Leaving Certificate Examination (FSLCE). After completing his primary education, he proceeded to pursue his bachelor’s degree.  He gained admission into the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), then University of Ife, Ile-Ife, In Osun State, in 1981, where he was offered Agricultural economics. As a brilliant student, he came out with distinction, making him the first student to be bestowed with the grade of distinction by the university.

The unrepentant green revolutionary furthered his education at Purdue University in Indiana, United States of America in 1985 for his master’s degree. He also obtained his Ph.D. in Agricultural economics in 1988 from the same university. On completion, he returned to Nigeria to implement the knowledge he gained as an agricultural economist to assist small-scale farmers on how to improve their farm produce with the general concept of making agriculture a means of subsistence.

Career background

He started quite early in life after completing his studies. He didn’t stay too long before joining the workforce. In 1990, he joined the West African Rice Development Association (WARDA) where he served as a senior economist. He worked with this organisation till 1995.

From 1999-2008, he joined the Rockefeller Foundation, that was established to promote the wellbeing of humanity throughout the world. Since then, it has evolved into solving global challenges as it relates to health, food, power, and economy.

During this period at Rockefeller, Adesina served as a representative of the Foundation, rising to the position of an Associate Director for Food Security, from 2003-2008. In 2010, his towering profile in the area of food security caught the attention of President Jonathan who made him the head of Nigeria’s Agriculture and Rural Development ministry. He is credited for transforming the sector and making it one of the front drivers of the country’s economy during the Jonathan years.

Besides upgrading the agricultural sector to a business, he also curbed the nepotism in the supply of fertilizers across the country and made sure it was evenly distributed. Before then, a large number of farmers have been crying foul in the supply of fertilizers. It seems the transparency and reduction in the cost of fertilizers to farmers added more value to the agricultural sector and also improved the economy. His wealth of experience in the agricultural sector brought a turnaround in areas of developing policy reforms to boost agriculture.

His agricultural policies set the tone for diversifying the economy by leveraging on other sectors that has seen agriculture becoming next vast gold mine after crude oil. After the expiration of the Jonathan administration, he joined AfDB. He assumed office as AfDB President on May 28, 2015, the first Nigerian to occupy that prestigious position. The Bank is concerned with fighting poverty and improving the living conditions on the continent by promoting investments of public and private capital projects programmes that will likely contribute to the economic and social development of the region.

He has since launched a strategy to scale up the fight with the focus on energy, industrialisation, agriculture, regional and integration as it pertains to the lives of Africans. In 2016, the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed him as a member of the lead group of scaling up Nutrition Movement.

Interestingly, he has coordinated various agricultural programmes designed to address issues that affect farmers, built a symbiotic relationship between farmers and government, generated agriculture reform policies that helped in providing credit facilities to farmers, stretched agriculture production to help alleviate poverty, and overall make agriculture to be regarded as one of the major revenue-generating sectors. His wealth of experience as an agriculture economist has seen him managing several positions in and outside Nigeria.

Minister from 2010-2015

Adesina is reputed for revamping the moribund agriculture sector while serving as a minister. Before him, agriculture in the country was a shadow of itself. He created reform policies that curbed the irregularities in the distribution of fertilizers in the country.

The establishment of the Nigerian Incentive Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) is to his credit. With this instrument, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) planned on how the apex bank would use $350 million to create facilities that will leverage $3.5 billion from commercial banks into agriculture.

The purpose is to make farmers and other agri-prenuers to access loans from banks. During his tenure as agriculture minister, he was fondly called farmers’ minister. He created an enduring bridge between government and farmers. He made agriculture lucrative. ‘’Agriculture in Nigeria grew to become one of the driving forces in the economy. For instance, while serving as a minister in Nigeria, there was an increase in rice production’’, one of Adesina’s numerous admirers said.

One analyst says his administration opened doors for investment in rice production, which aimed at pushing Nigeria to become a major rice exporter, pointing out, ‘’Dr. Adesina led Nigeria’s rice production which was very competitive as almost all the states of the federation have rice mills to boost rice production.

‘’With the impact he brought, there is a massive increase in rice production, which Nigeria can now boast of multiple tons across the country.’’

It appears his good works in revamping the agriculture sector in Nigeria, paved the way for him to become the AfDB big boss. Adesina is said to be the first person with a background in agriculture to assume the prestigious office. As AfDB president, he has developed a lot of agriculture reform policies that wILL help nations get rid of poverty and hunger.

ina served as the principal economist and coordinator for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). He also held this post at the International Crop Research Institute for the semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Adesina is a Christian married to Grace whom he met while studying at Purdue in the United States. They are blessed with children. While in the US, they founded a Christian group, the African Student Fellowship.

Achievements & Honours

From 1990 to 1995, Adesina served as a senior economist at West African Rice Development Association (WARDA) in Bouaké, Ivory Coast.In 2016, he was again appointed by Ban Ki-moon to serve as a member of the Lead Group of the Scaling up Nutrition MovementHe set up the impact investment – program. This happened at his time at the Rockefeller Foundation where he convinced the bank of Uganda to lend money to farmers growing bananas, using $50,000.

He is a recipient of numerous national honours including being the Commander of the Order of the Niger (2012), Grand Officier of the National Order of Senegal (2015), Grand Officier of the National Order of Merit of Niger (2017), Grand Officer of the Order of Valour of Cameroon (2017), Grand Cordon of the Order of Mono of Togo (2018), and Grand Officier of the National Order of Merit of Tunisia (2019).

For pioneering innovative ways for improving farmers’ access to agricultural inputs in Africa, he was awarded the Yara Prize for the African green revolution in July in Oslo, Norway. It is a boost for his involvement in the African green revolution.

For the leadership role, he played in pioneering innovative approaches to improve access to agricultural inputs for African farmers he has the CAST communication Award (2010) in his kitty. He was awarded the Borlaug CAST Award in 2010 by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, USA for his global leadership in agricultural science and technology.

This distinguished agricultural alumni award holder from Purdue University College of agriculture in 2008, also holds a honorary doctorate of humane letters by Frankline and Marshall College (2010). He is Forbe’s Africa person of the year 2013

Adesina is a winner of the World Food Prize, 2017. He earned this award because of the enormous work he did while working for the Rockefeller, and his role at AGRA – and as a minister of agriculture in Nigeria. At the Sunhak Peace Prize in 2019, he pledged the prize monies and a few donations totaling $1.1 million to the creation of the world hunger fighters’ foundation.

He has been at the forefront galvanising political will to transform agriculture through initiatives, a honorary doctor of science degree by University of Alberta, Canada 2019, a honorary doctor of Afe Babalola University 2018

‘’My vision is geared at promoting good governance to help boost Africa’s capacity to feed itself and transform its total economics for generating wealth for millions of rural and poor African farmers’’, Adesina who has been championing agricultural programmes says.

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